A year and a half before the 2008 presidential election, the Secret Service has assigned a protection team to Sen. Barack Obama. The Chicago Tribune says Obama has resisted the idea for fear that it would limit his ability to make a close connection with voters. It is the earliest point in a campaign cycle at which the agency has ever taken responsibility for a candidate not already under protection as an office holder.
Apparently, no specific event or threat triggered the decision, but a bipartisan panel of congressional leaders reviewed threats to Obama on Web sites and in letters before recommending special protection. Said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Il.): “Doing our best to guarantee his safety is the least we can do.” Obama isn’t the first African-American candidate to face heightened security concerns while considering a campaign or running for office. Colin Powell cited his family’s fears of an assassination attempt when he announced he would not run for president. Rev. Jesse Jackson said he received a steady stream of death threats when he ran for president in 1984.